I’m reclaiming the ability to ask for help.

We have a warped notion of what it means to be strong or independent. To be strong is not to be unbreakable. To be independent is not to be devoid of need. To be a whole person is not to be cut off from all other people.

We live through need-shaming, connection-blaming. Workplaces hold up those who ask for the least, as paragons of ‘good’ workers, as if the needs they’re suppressing won’t take their toll on health & productivity. Relationships are all about assessing who is likeliest to give most and demand the least in return. Cue, the transactional nature of everything from arranged marriages to the hookup culture. Guilt-tripping is the champion currency of all regular relationships. Perhaps because it feels unthinkable to say let us embark on this journey of realising each other, listening, sharing, helping, asking, always communicating.

The picture below, was shot in Goa a few years ago. Nearly two years after surviving a broken engagement with an abusive person and all the shaming that is par for the Indian course, I said to a friend, “I need to make a trip. It must be outside Mumbai because it has been my cocoon but also the place where all this trauma happened. And it should be Goa because I went there with him last and I need to reclaim it beyond the memory of him. I do not have it in me to travel alone, even to a distant suburb of Mumbai. Will you help me?” A month later, he met me at Goa airport, flying in from another city but also timing his arrival there so I wouldn’t wait alone, staying on the phone with me till I got on the plane and he, on his. In the four days we were there, I read, slept, ate and swam while he worked. I reclaimed my smile, my travel suitcase and Goa. And after I got back, I built a stage career, a body of written work, a new partnership and my own health.

Anybody who shames you for asking for help, is probably not in a position to help you anyway. Because there’s nothing more human than need and the ability to communicate it. And there’s no better way of affirming your own humanity than in the willingness to address that need, without agenda.

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